Indian Agrarian Crisis now moved to

Farmer-the most endangered species

Farm suicides show no sign of abating in Vidarbha

Posted by Ramoo on January 30, 2007

Jaideep Hardikar
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 22:11 IST

NAGPUR: The 2006-07 cotton-plucking season is coming to an end, yet the farmers’ suicide index in six districts of Vidarbha is not showing any signs of wilting, even as the state government claims that its relief measures are reaching the farmers.

Fourteen more farmers have committed suicide in the last 72 hours, taking the toll to nearly 70 within the first month of the year, as per the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) records, while the state figures report that there have been over 600 suicides in the region in the last five months. This is the first time in six months that the suicide figure hasn’t crossed the hundred figure-mark in a single given month.

“There are always seasonal highs and lows of suicides, depending upon the cycle of agriculture. It’s now the post-harvest time when farmer’s earn some money,” explains Kishor Tiwari, convenor of VJAS.

Once the new agriculture season sets in, a new set of worries, about credit and inputs, will start nagging the farmers; that’s when suicides surge and are high when agriculture activities are in full swing. Other factors like health epidemic or marriages also affect the suicide rate. “In the height of agricultural season last year, the chikungunya pandemic was the most compelling factor for a sudden rise in family expenditure. Suicides rose sharply during that period. Yet, over 70 suicides a month in only six districts is an alarming trend,” Tiwari says. In the corresponding period, last year, the toll stood at 68 and in 2005, it was 52.

The state’s suicide figure for the six districts in 2006 is 1427, higher than the figure pegged by the VJAS. But, the state says only 541 cases were eligible for the Rs One lakh compensation, while the remaining farm suicides were not correlated with the agrarian distress nor did they meet the parameters set for the cash compensation.

These 541 cases fall in the category of “genuine” suicides, while the cases found ineligible by the government for compensation is deemed “non-genuine”. Yet, the government’s own list shows a growing trend in the number of cases fit for the compensation. The rejection rate has been growing after the PM’s visit last year. Tiwari contends, “Whatever be the figure, the issue is not just the suicides, but also the scale of distress. There’s no indication that the distress is on the decline.”

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